As a native Haitian, Durham choreographer Gaspard Louis closely followed news of the January 2010 earthquake that devastated the region surrounding Port-au-Prince. He stayed in contact with family members still living there who lost their homes to the temblors measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale. But a year later, he was still creatively stuck when his company performed at a benefit for the stricken country at Duke's Page Auditorium. "I wanted to respond, in my work," Louis recalls, "but I still was not ready to tackle that in my choreography."
While working on a project for his MFA, Louis interviewed 92-year-old dancer Jean Léon Destiné. The Haitian native had achieved fame for his work with Kathleen Dunham in the 1940s. In their conversations, something opened up. "Because of him, I was able to come to terms with the event, and have a clearer idea of how to approach it as an artist," Louis notes. "You could say he gave me the 'green light' for the piece."
We see the result this week in the world premiere of Souke (Shake) during his company's performance at Reynolds Theater. Souke reflects on "the passion, intensity and chaos of the moment, how people attempt to run away or deal with hindrances to get to safety, but also how they come together to help each other." Louis notes that when such an event shakes up the existing order, new intersections, relationships and understandings can be forged.
The concert also features Prometheus, a premiere by choreographer and former Ballet Frankfurt dancer Amanda Miller, and BEAT, an intense repertory work by Mark Dendy. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday, March 13 and 15, at 8 p.m. —Byron Woods